SHAED Break Down Their Anxious Debut Album “High Dive” Track by Track
Hear what the D.C. trio had to say about the 13 tracks that encapsulate the highs and lows of life since the pandemic.
When Faulkner coined the phrase “Kill your darlings,” I think he was more referring to a line or two that won’t seem to fit into a greater work, rather than the entire work itself. Yet for D.C.’s SHAED, scrapping their entire debut record felt like the only sensible option when they revisited the songs they wrote while touring pre-COVID and realized none of it rang true to them anymore. Rather than trying to recreate their smash-hit single “Trampoline” as they did with the first draft of the album, the resulting High Dive, which finally drops today, takes the trio comprised of vocalist Chelsea Lee, her husband Spencer Ernst, and Spencer’s brother Max in a more comfortable direction.
These 13 tracks introduce the band’s music as the perfect balance of lyrical anxiety and upbeat, carefree instrumentation—echoing the energy of “Trampoline,” yet far from just recreating that song a dozen times. Behind that bouncy sheen is a band that experienced dramatic highs and lows before even releasing their debut collection of songs, with many of these experiences being recounted in the track-by-track breakdown below. Stream High Dive in full, and read on to hear about a fateful trip to Japan, an introduction to “the visible woman,” and a general sense of ungroundedness that contributed to the project.
COVID stopped everything full force. When the pandemic started we had an album’s worth of new music under our belts—a collection of songs we had written on the road, a collection of songs created under the pressure of creating the next “Trampoline,” mostly written with other songwriters. For the first time, we had a chance to take a serious look at all of the songs in front of us, and one thing was clear: they no longer told our truth. So we decided to scrap the entire album, which left us anxious and empty. We reached a point when we were relying too much on alcohol at the end of the day just to numb everything. After getting way too dizzy…we woke up and poured our hearts into writing for the album.
This track was inspired by our trip to Japan in 2019. We spent two glorious weeks hopping around the island and playing massive festivals in Tokyo and Osaka. We fell in love with the culture, landscape, food, and people, and had the time of our lives. We left Japan with a confidence we never knew existed within ourselves, and this song is an expression of that feeling.
3. “Part Time Psycho”
I constantly struggle with anxiety and a bit of depression, which was only exacerbated by the pandemic… While bouncing between our rental home, my parents’ home, and Max’s row home in DC, I felt we had lost all stability. I didn’t feel grounded in one place—I felt I was teetering between madness, sadness, and happiness at all times and wasn’t sure when I would explode. One minute I was spiraling into oblivion thinking of everything we lost (tours, shows, travel, an album, and, most importantly, social interaction) and the next I was so giddy about buying spices online. I was all over the place, and I continue to be all over the place.
All of us have a bit of psycho tendencies within us—through this song we want to share that feeling anxiety, pressure, confusion, and sadness is all normal, especially now. It’s OK to admit that you’re falling and need help, it’s OK to explore different emotions throughout the day, it’s OK to be a little psycho. You are not alone. And you never will be. We all are experiencing some form of manic behaviors, some trials and tribulations as we tumble into the unknown.
4. “High Dive”
This is the title track of our debut album. It’s about the leap of faith we took together—scrapping one album and writing another during one of the most trying times in our lives.
5. “I Know Nothing”
This is one of the last songs we wrote. It’s about the anger and frustration of seeing someone stay in an unhealthy relationship during the pandemic, when it’s clear they deserve better.
6. “Once Upon a Time”
This song is about the tragic nature of being young and in love. In our youth, there’s an untapped well of ever-changing emotions that wants to spill out. First relationships are filled with intense feelings of love, hope, and regret. In the blink of an eye, you go from believing you’ll die in that person’s arms to watching the walls of the foundation you built crumble around you.
We wrote this song about the indescribable feeling that one experiences after coming out to someone for the first time. For Max, that moment was coming out to Spencer, which felt like stepping out of a haze of sadness and deep-rooted shame into a world where he could truly accept the love of his friends, family, and himself. When we sat down to write “Colorful,” our hope was to convey the transformative power of acceptance—the profound impact that love and support can have on LGBTQUI+ people.
I’m terrified of dying. We wrote this song from the perspective of someone who no longer fears death, and delights in the things that keep us up at night. I love this song because it keeps me grounded.
9. “No Other Way”
This past year has been a struggle for us all, filled with anxiety, disappointment, and uncertainty. We wrote this song as a reminder to live in the moment, which is the only thing we can control.
10. “Wish We Had Longer”
We knew this beautiful woman who had recently transitioned; she was hit really hard by the pandemic and ended up committing suicide in early spring of 2020. This song is a reminder of her courage and creative spirit.
11. “Visible Woman”
This is a really personal one for me. I watched an interview of Heidi Klum saying that she was dressing up as the visible woman for Halloween, and I just thought that phrase was so amazing. The visible woman. I love the vulnerability of an anatomical model of a woman. Over the years I’ve fallen in and out of love with myself, struggling to find confidence—this song reminds me that I’m strong, independent, and beautiful. This is my fight song.
12. “6 in the Morning”
I wake up every morning around six and look out the window in our kitchen. It’s a really peaceful moment for me. This song is about what I think about in those moments.
13. “High Dive” (feat. Lewis Del Mar)
Lewis Del Mar just took this song to the next level. Every time we listen to this I feel like I need to be drinking tequila on a beach somewhere.